Another day, another historic free-agent deal for the Dodgers this winter.
Los Angeles announced a 12-year deal with coveted Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Wednesday. The deal is for $325 million, sources told MLB.com insider Mark Feinsand, and the Dodgers are also on the hook for a posting fee of around $50 million to Yamamoto's former Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Orix Buffaloes.
“I’d like to thank everyone in the Orix organization, the Dodger organization and all the people close to me who have given me so much support throughout this free-agent process,” Yamamoto said in a statement. “I am truly excited to wear Dodger Blue and can’t wait to play in front of a packed Dodger Stadium.”
The deal, which includes a $50 million signing bonus, has no deferrals and includes opt-outs after years six and eight, per a source. Yamamoto will receive the most guaranteed dollars ever given to a pitcher, surpassing Gerrit Cole by $1 million -- though in his current nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees, Cole holds the edge in average annual value over Yamamoto’s $27 million per year.
It's also the longest free-agent deal for a full-time pitcher (two-way stars not included) since Wayne Garland signed with Cleveland for 10 years and $2.3 million in 1977. He was released five years later.
The blockbuster for Yamamoto comes after the Dodgers had already won the offseason by inking Shohei Ohtani to an eye-popping 10-year, $700 million pact with unprecedented deferrals, then traded for and extended right-hander Tyler Glasnow in order to fortify their rotation.
The trio of Ohtani, Yamamoto and Glasnow represents more than $1.1 billion in deals Los Angeles has agreed to this offseason, and the unprecedented deferrals in Ohtani's contract were in large part what allowed them to make all of these moves together.
The Dodgers already had plenty of rotation candidates in the fold, but with starters such as Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin all recovering from surgery, they were looking to add at least one frontline arm to bolster their depth.
In Yamamoto, Los Angeles will get that and perhaps even more.
As evidenced by his historic deal, Yamamoto, 25, is considered a potential frontline starter despite his slight frame. The 5-foot-10 righty’s repertoire features a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and multiple wipeout secondary pitches, including his signature curveball, as well as a splitter and cutter/slider.
He comes to the Majors having won the pitching Triple Crown in Nippon Professional Baseball, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and the Eiji Sawamura Award -- Japan’s version of the Cy Young -- in each of the past three seasons. Altogether, he went 49-16 with a 1.44 ERA and 580 strikeouts in that span.
Yamamoto burnished his legacy with a 14-strikeout complete game on 138 pitches in what turned out to be his final NPB start, leading Orix to victory in Game 6 of the Japan Series. The Buffaloes ultimately lost the series to the Hanshin Tigers, but Yamamoto’s performance under that spotlight won’t soon be forgotten as he moves on to the next stage of his career.
Yamamoto previously helped Orix win the Japan Series in 2022, and he also won gold pitching for his country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Now, he’ll look to follow in the footsteps of other Japanese arms who successfully transitioned from NPB to Major League Baseball, including standouts such as Ohtani, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Koji Uehara, Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenta Maeda, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masahiro Tanaka.
“We could not be more excited to bring Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Dodgers,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a statement. “You don’t win three MVP awards by the age of 25 without an exceptional combination of talent, work ethic and mental toughness. He’s an elite pitcher with an impressive dedication to his craft who will only become more dynamic in a Dodger uniform. We are thrilled for him to be a mainstay at the top of our starting rotation for years to come.”